Friday, 22 May 2015

What Inspired Your Story? by Sophie Claire

I must confess that when I wrote Her Forget-Me-Not Ex I was reminiscing very nostalgically about my childhood summers spent in Provence at my grandparents' house. Not so much the place, though it's still very special to me, but the atmosphere. Let me explain.

My mother is French and every year at the end of July we used to pack up the car and make the two-day journey to the south of France and the house that Mum had known since she was a little girl. It must have been an emotional time for her because she didn't get to see her family during the rest of the year (air travel was expensive back then), and the main method of keeping in touch with my grandparents was by letter – handwritten and posted in air mail envelopes. My grandmother used to write to my mum, my sister and me individually every week, so despite the distance I felt very close to her and I loved the long summers we spent at her house. They were such special times that, come the month of August, I always find myself reminiscing, even now years later.

Although my family didn’t own a vineyard (I wish!) like Luc Duval, the hero in my novel, I have wonderful memories of sunshine and trips to the beach and delicious meals that stretched for hours with my extended family all around the table. With the wine flowing and everyone in holiday mode, there would be lots of stories told and joking and banter. It is a very special feeling to be surrounded by so many people who love you and have known you since you were born…

I drew on these memories when I wrote about Luc's large and noisy family in Her Forget-Me-Not Ex and it wasn't difficult to make my heroine, Natasha, wish she belonged at Chateau Duval. Natasha doesn’t have any family of her own, so she’s particularly envious of Luc’s loving family, and her feelings are made all the more complicated by the fact that she’s there under false pretences. As welcoming as the Duvals might be, she knows she doesn’t belong in this place that’s filled with children’s laughter, where there’s always someone who could use her help, and where the beautiful house and garden are enfused with centuries of tradition. At the end of the two weeks, she and Luc know she will leave and return to England.
But I'll leave it for you to find out what happens when she faces that dilemma...

Has a place inspired you?
How did you spend your childhood summers?
Leave a comment and you could win a free Kindle copy of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex!


Her Forget-Me-Not Ex is out now and available in paperback and e-book:
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

You can find out about forthcoming giveaways and news on Sophie Claire's Facebook page and Twitter

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ten (and a half!) Things We've Learned About Blogging

It’s become increasingly important for authors to have a ‘platform’ to promote themselves and their books, but keeping a blog regularly updated can eat into precious writing time. A way around this is to have a joint blog with a group of friends. We started this blog way back in September 2012. It took a while for us to find our feet. We had no schedule - posting randomly whenever we felt like it, or not at all! Gradually our confidence grew, along with our visitors, and we now average over 100 hits a day. We’ve made mistakes along the way - and no doubt we’ll keep on making them! – but we have learned from them.

And here's what we've learned:

To ensure we stayed friends, we agreed in advance about the essentials, such as what we were going to blog about, and how often, and whether to have guest posts or to make our blog all about ourselves.

We learned to keep the design of our blog simple. Going mad with graphics, multi-coloured fonts and too many large photos meant our site was a bit slow to load and kept doing weird things. Occasionally it still does weird things but we decided to stick with the orange swirls because they've become our trademark. We've recently created a news page for our book launches and new releases, and another page lists all our latest books. This keeps our home page free for our blog posts.

We now tell visitors who we are (we used to be mistaken for a book blogging site!) and have lots of photographs to make ourselves seem more 'real'.

Most of our blog posts are around 600 words long, which we hope are just the right length to read during a coffee break. But we also like to alternate these with longer posts, which we break up with sub-headings, such as Valerie-Anne Baglietto did when she wrote this post about her favourite childhood books. (It makes them easier to read.)

We love photographs, but prefer to use our own rather than breaching someone else’s copyright. We recommend getting into the habit of carrying a camera around and building up a library of suitable photos, even doing your own photo shoot, as Johanna Grassick did for this post about books.

A group of authors blogging together can create a cross-pollination effect amongst their readers, but we try to be subtle about promotion. We write about the themes in our books rather than the books themselves. Trisha Ashley wrote a post about her pets when promoting her novel about a dog rescue centre and Juliet Greenwood wrote about creating a WW1 garden when her book set during the Great War came out.

We make sure our posts have a point to them and we’re not just blogging 'because it’s a Monday and we always blog on a Monday'. We try to make our posts informative, interesting, or at the very least entertaining - and occasionally tongue-in-cheek, like this one by Louise Marley.

If we get stuck for ideas we brainstorm subjects and themes. We’ve written posts about where we write (June Francis), how we juggle writing with family life (Anne Bennett) and even our favourite Christmas traditions (Cheryl Lang).

We keep an eye on our blog statistics and have found our posts about writing, research and inspiration are the most popular, especially this one by Annie Burrows, which has had almost 2,000 hits.

Finally, because there are ten of us, our posts receive ten times the exposure when we all link to them from our personal social networking sites. We tag our posts with all the (relevant!) labels we can think of. We try to keep old posts going by linking to them in a new post (in the same way we’ve done here - sneaky, eh?) or add the links in a list at the end, sub-titled something like ‘Related Posts’.

Setting up a blog and finding things to post about can be intimidating but with a group blog we can bounce ideas off each other and share the work between ourselves. And very often it doesn’t seem like work at all!